2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Running Backs (Pre-Combine)

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The Falcons are in an interesting spot at running back. Cordarrelle Patterson‘s free agency feels like a coin flip, and Mike Davis is a cut candidate with a tight cap sheet. Qadree Ollison is on the roster, but the Falcons are going to need more at the position. This is a solid looking class, so maybe the Falcons can pick up an extra pick and use it on a position that isn’t considered a premium one in the draft.

As is typical with running backs in the draft — most of them are very solid players, and you’re splitting hairs when you rank them. If they’re on this list — they’re a quality option. After the combine and when we get some testing numbers, this list will expand, so don’t worry if you don’t see your favorite prospect. Previous editions are listed below:

 

12. Jerrion Ealy — Ole Miss

Ealy is a smaller back, but he is an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands. I could see him being used in a Tarik Cohen type role for a team, but even at 5’8, he delivers some punishing blows when finishing runs. I don’t think he could be an every down back in the NFL, but he has a lot of raw talent.

 

11. Breece Hall — Iowa State

I really liked Hall in the last draft, but he came back to Iowa State and is one of the most decorated backs in team history. There are a lot of miles on Hall’s legs, but he’s a shifty runner that can move through lanes well. I think he profiles as more of a rotational back, but he’s a guy who can give an NFL team quality carries from day one.

 

10. Tyler Badie — Missouri

Badie is one of my sleepers in this class, and he was an impact player for Missouri in 2021. Badie is explosive with excellent balance; he’s a back that can come in from day one, take a few carries and create chunk plays. I’m not sure how he would hold up as an every down back, but the potential to be one is absolutely there.

 

9. Brian Robinson Jr. — Alabama

I like a lot of what Brian Robinson brings to the table; he can break off big chunks of yards and is incredibly strong as a pass blocker. Although he was at Alabama for five years, he doesn’t have a ton of miles on his legs. He’s a guy who could easily become a feature back almost immediately.

 

8. Jerome Ford — Cincinnati

The Alabama transfer seems to have made the right decision, as he was an impact player in a potent Bearcats offense as a pass catcher and as a runner. He gashed a strong Georgia defense for 12 yards per carry in the 2020 Sugar Bowl, and he found the endzone 19 times in 2021. He hasn’t had too tough of a workload in college, and he could break out as a true feature three-down back in an NFL offense.

 

7. ZaQuandre White — South Carolina

After the combine, I think White is going to rocket up this board — and for good reason. He’s a strong running back with great athleticism, and he can make a lot of plays out of the backfield as a pass catcher. He was a big part of South Carolina’s team success in 2021. He hasn’t had a huge workload in college, and being as big as he is with explosiveness and fresh legs is dangerous going into the draft.

 

6. Dameon Pierce — Florida

I’ve made a few comments about Dameon Pierce, and I think he’s a guy you could see the Falcons target later in the draft. He didn’t get a ton of burn as a Senior at Florida, which was surprising considering that he ran for 5.7 yards per carry and caught passes for 11.4 yards per touch. He’s also excellent in pass protection, and with those fresh legs — don’t be shocked if the Falcons take a swing at him later in the draft.

 

5. Hassan Haskins — Michigan

Haskins had a fantastic week at the Senior Bowl, and it absolutely bumped him up a few spots on my board. He helped spearhead a potent Michigan rushing attack, and he gave the Wolverines a lot of big carries in short yardage situations. The former linebacker looks to dish out punishment wherever he can, and there’s a lot of passion behind his carries. He may be limited to early downs in the NFL, but he can give you a lot of thump when he’s on the field.

 

4. Kyren Williams — Notre Dame

While he might be the victim of a bit of prospect fatigue, Kyren Williams is a very well rounded back who has the chops to make a difference as a pass blocker. Williams is an extremely tough runner who will fight for every inch, and that’s going to appeal to a lot of NFL scouts.

 

3. Isaiah Spiller — Texas A&M

When you talk about having a complete skillset, Isaiah Spiller may be the most well-rounded back in the entire class. While he isn’t a burner, he has excellent burst and vision, and the fact that he can catch the ball out of the backfield makes him even more dangerous. If you’re looking for a guy who can start from day one and play all three downs — Isaiah Spiller is the ideal prospect.

 

2. James Cook — Georgia

While I’m admittedly a little biased towards Cook, you’d be hard pressed to find a better running back with the ball in his hands after the catch in this class. Not only can Cook make plays in the passing game, he really improved as a runner between the tackles at Georgia in 2021. I don’t think he will reach the level of Alvin Kamara, but they have a similar style. I think Cook may be more of a complementary back, but there’s a lot of value in that in today’s NFL.

 

1. Kenneth Walker III — Michigan State

Some running backs just look different on tape — they hit holes harder, they have incredible burst, and they have exceptional vision. Kenneth Walker is that guy in this draft class. Walker is a very physical back, but he shows a lot of patience and can zip through lanes like a back half of his size. He has all of the makeup to be a featured back in an offense, and if he can develop as a pass catcher — watch out.

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

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